Safe Defrosting Methods
As soon as raw or cooked meat, poultry, egg and seafood products begin to thaw and become warmer than 5 Celsius, bacteria that may have been present before freezing can begin to multiply.
Perishable foods should never be thawed on the counter or in hot water and must not be left at room temperature for more than two hours, even though the centre of the package may still be frozen as it thaws on the counter, the outer layer of the food could be in the "Danger Zone," above 5C. — where bacteria multiply rapidly.
There are safe ways to thaw food: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave.
- Small amounts of frozen food — such as 1Kg of ground meat or boneless chicken breasts — require a full day to thaw
- Food will take longer to thaw in a refrigerator set at 3 Celsius than one set at 4.5 Celsius.
- After thawing in the refrigerator, items such as ground meat, stew meat, poultry, seafood, should remain safe and good quality for an additional day before cooking.
- Red meat cuts (such as beef, pork or lamb roasts, chops and steaks) should remain safe and good quality 1-2 days.
- Food thawed in the refrigerator can be refrozen without cooking, although there may be some loss of quality.
Cold Water Thawing
- This method is faster than refrigerator thawing but requires more attention.
- The food must be in a leak-proof package or plastic bag. If the bag leaks, bacteria from the air or surrounding environment could be introduced into the food. Also, the meat tissue may absorb water, resulting in a watery product.
- The bag should be submerged in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes so it continues to thaw.
- Small packages of meat, poultry or seafood — about 1 Kg — may thaw in 1 hour or less.
- A 2Kg package may take 2 to 3 hours. For whole turkeys, estimate about 30 minutes per 500g.
- Once thawed food must be cooked immediately. Foods thawed by the cold water method should be cooked before refreezing.
- After thawing in the microwave, always cook immediately, whether microwave cooking, by a conventional oven, or grilling.
- Holding partially cooked food is not recommended because any bacteria present wouldn't have been destroyed and, indeed, the food may have reached optimal temperatures for bacteria to grow.
- Microwave it on the “defrost” setting, with for seafood stop the defrost cycle while the fish is still icy but pliable.
- Foods thawed in the microwave should be cooked before refreezing.
Also, never thaw foods in a garage, basement, car, dishwasher or plastic garbage bag; out on the kitchen counter, outdoors or on the porch. These methods can leave your foods unsafe to eat.
Cooking Without Thawing
It is safe to cook foods from the frozen state. The cooking will take approximately 50% longer than the recommended time for fully thawed or fresh meat and poultry.